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Dementia: Learning to Speak the Language

Alzheimer’s and dementia expert Forrest Stepnowski joins Suzanne to talk about learning to communicate better with those who have dementia. Forrest is CarePartners Living’s Executive Director of The Cottages at Renton, in Seattle.

Forrest says, “One thing I try to teach caregivers I work with at CarePartners — and at the Cottages of Renton specifically, as well as family members, as well as people who come to us as community outreach — is when someone has dementia, you have to learn how to speak their language. You have to learn what is triggering them, especially if someone has a trauma history, which 80% of us out there do. And that can play a role to their paranoia, into their fears, into embarrassment, when they’re needing help. All those things play a factor. I simply tell people, if they say it’s 1945, it’s 1945. I don’t know what the story is about 1945, but whether positive or negative, find out. The sky is purple? The sky is purple. What’s causing it to be purple? That’s what we should be asking, not correcting.”

Forrest adds, “The thing about dementia is people need to realize is those behaviors happen because there is a gap in the brain, the brain will slowly deteriorating. It becomes a black hole. If you look at a PET scan, the wave of the brain becomes smaller, and smaller and smaller, and it starts exhibiting a black hole. There’s no function in the brain after a while. When people have behaviors, they can’t help it. It’s their way of communicating. They’re trying to get it out. You know, it’s OK to hear those stories back then. You might actually learn something about your loved one that you didn’t know before. You’re like, uh did mom really meet President Hoover? From siblings, they’re still alive from that generation, ‘Oh, yeah, she did all that stuff like that,’ and people truly find a side of their parents or their loved ones they didn’t know it was there.”

Contact Forrest Stepnowski at The Cottages at Renton at (425) 528-7070. CarePartners has communities in Arizona and the state of Washington.

Learn more:

* The Cottages at Renton: https://www.carepartnersliving.com/cottages-of-renton/
* CarePartners Senior Living: https://answersforelders.com/carepartners-senior-living/
* CarePartners website: https://www.carepartnersliving.com/

Hear more:
* Shows by CarePartners: https://answersforelders.com/tag/carepartners-living/

Answers for Elders is part of the SeniorResource Network: https://www.seniorresource.com/
Check out our affiliate podcast Alzheimer’s Speaks: https://alzheimersspeaks.com/